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Mobile E-Voucher Education Assistance for Remote Communities in Myanmar

NRC Myanmar will deliver emergency education assistance via an electronic commodity voucher granted to conflict-affected youth in Kachin.

Photo of Kendra Hughbanks
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What problem does your innovation solve?

The intervention is designed to overcome access barriers in NGCAs and provide education support to conflict-affected youth. Many displaced youth are without access to education opportunities in non-Government-controlled areas (NGCAs) due to six years of conflict. By implementing a remote e-cash transfer programme (CTP) utilising existing biometric data collection technology, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) team will ensure assistance reaches the intended children and youth.

Explain your innovation.

E-vouchers will be granted to youth whose access to education has been interrupted by the conflict. Biometric data will be used in lieu of identity documentation. Beneficiary selection will be based on school enrolment and displacement. Vendors will authenticate beneficiaries during purchases using portable, high-resolution USB plug-in fingerprint readers that work offline in remote areas without internet or phone signal. The system will still maintain a secure off-site encrypted dataset. All materials will be procured from within the NGCAs to ensure compliance with vendor smartphone platforms. Vendor reimbursement will be done via cash transfer agents or via bank transfer. The NRC’s robust remote cash transfer Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will be followed, from pre-market assessment to post-distribution monitoring and follow-up. The beneficiary database and real-time data monitoring will be held in the NRC Northeast Area Office in Bhamo (in the Government-controlled area, or GCA), which will also support on compliance with NRC procedures.

Who benefits?

1,000 displaced adolescents (aged 15-18) who are living in hard-to-reach NGCAs will benefit from the Education E- vouchers, allowing them to purchase necessary supplies for attending formal or non-formal school options from nearby markets, reducing risks they face in having to travel to access humanitarian aid. Also, 100 teachers from the same locations will benefit from Education E-vouchers so they may purchase teachers’ supplies. These teachers’ supplies will have an indirect reach to a larger group of students enrolled at their schools. These students and teachers are some of the most marginalised as there is currently no international humanitarian or development presence in the area. Factors limiting girls’ education include the delegation of domestic responsibilities onto girls, and security issues that present a specific risk for pubescent girls when traveling to and from school. Furthermore, economic strains on the household are more likely to threaten girls’ education.

How is your innovation unique?

This technological approach can revolutionise current CTP modalities used in NGCAs by the NRC for Education. This streamlined approach will create a more convenient and efficient process at both administrative and field level. It will reduce distribution and monitoring timeframes, increasing fieldworker productivity and cost effectiveness. Increased accuracy on beneficiary identification / verification will reduce the risk of corruption by relying on a process which has fewer opportunities for fraud. Improved beneficiary identification accuracy will enable the NRC to measure beneficiary presence and system usage, which will enable the NRC to better assess the efficacy of its programming while mitigating concerns relating to aid diversion towards armed opposition groups. This approach is more adaptive than existing approaches and will equip the NRC for future interventions. All beneficiary personal data will be encrypted during collection, storage, and transit to a secure database.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Data protection concerns relating to electronic biometric data storage and fears that data could be compromised, stolen, or misused. This risk can be mitigated by encryption and due diligence when handling data. Technological failures are possible and the limitations of technology will be communicated to beneficiaries in order to manage expectations. Market disruption or monopolisation is possible, as with any CTP. This can be mitigated with a thorough market assessment and contracting multiple vendors as per the SOPs. Social tension is a risk of doing a non-blanket distribution of cash assistance. This will be mitigated by adopting a socially cohesive approach to beneficiary selection with community leadership and transparency.

Tell us more about you.

The NRC is an independent, humanitarian, non-profit, non-governmental organisation operating in 30 countries. The NRC works to meet emergency needs of refugees and IDPs, to facilitate the return of affected populations to their points of origin or support durable and dignified solutions, and to prevent further displacement from occurring. The NRC seeks to ensure that crisis-affected people receive timely, appropriate, impartial humanitarian assistance and protection in an integrated manner.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Natural disaster
  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

In Kachin State, armed conflict has continued, causing pockets of new and secondary displacement with allegations of continued human rights violations. Landmines and explosive remnants of war also continue to pose threat to civilians. The proximity of armed personnel to civilians creates serious protection concerns. The innovation is designed for conflict contexts with security issues and porous international borders, similar to Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Li Zar - Kachin, Myanmar Tailoring will require translation of project materials into local language(s), and market assessments and consultation with vendors to select payment methodologies that fit with local technological literacy, financial literacy, and operational / reliable exchange networks. These measures are consistent components of all NRC programmes. Broader replication would require similar contextualisation and analysis of technology options, markets, and financial systems.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

NRC Myanmar’s Education team has successfully implemented Education CTPs in Kachin within GCAs. NRC Myanmar is well positioned to modify and extend its reach to the most vulnerable communities in Kachin State. The NRC is involved in the official coordination system of the UN Agencies and NGOs present in Myanmar. Effective coordination is established with relevant local authorities and CBOs, which are closely consulted in all the phases of the project cycle.

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

The NRC has dedicated Education, CTP, Youth, and Gender advisers and Education programmes in conflict-affected countries around the world. The NRC is experienced in leveraging creative approaches for high-impact projects that meet pressing humanitarian needs. The holistic approach that the NRC takes to education—combining formal and non-formal education support for continued learning in displacement—is well suited to technological advances and the needs identified in NGCAs of Kachin State.

Innovation Maturity

  • Early Stage Innovation: I am exploring my innovation, refining, researching, and gathering inspiration.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

The NRC established and registered its Head Office in Oslo, Norway. It is also a recognised NGO registered with the Government of Myanmar.


How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

To make sure if individual student understands his messages regarding E-Voucher, he requests what would be the good thing to apply this modality compared with Voucher system, which they had already utilized. After discussion with students, most of the students would prefer to be given cash by means of E-Voucher because it is also their first encounter (it needs mobile phone). They expressed that it could be accessible even in their families because every household has at least one mobile phone

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Photo of Kendra Hughbanks

The smart phone usage in Myanmar and target group
The fact that the smart phone usage in Myanmar is 80%, usage rate is different from urban areas and rural areas or NGCA (non-government controlled area) and GCA (Government Controlled Area). Since this proposal is focused in NGCA, phone usage is quite low and the beneficiary (targets groups) do not need to own individually but only service provider will indeed need smart phone. The smart phone is estimated to cost around 300 USD. NRC staff will train target beneficiaries as well as service providers how to use mobile e-voucher application in reality.
Mobile E-voucher application will be translated in both Kachin (First language) and Myanmar (Second/ official language). As target beneficiaries are aged between (15-18) they can use either Kachin or Myanmar language.
Final thought and questions
The markets do exist since it is at the border of China. The expected items which will be purchased by the students are school supplies (ideally, school uniform, bags, stationaries, raincoat, umbrella, shoes etc..)
Business Model
Laiza, capital city of Kachin (NGCA), is closed to China Border and markets for education are available. Team also done the market assessment.
Students in NGCA will be using mobile e-voucher and have access to the markets so that they can purchase the needed items for their education purposes.